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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick


December 2017

Readers of my Greenwich Sentinel columns will know that I enjoy writing about local individuals and interesting experiences, that I honor and respect our military, and that I really, really love dogs. (Lest I get attacked on social media by cat lovers denouncing me as anti-feline, please understand this: I have very bad cat allergies.) I heard a story recently that combines much of the above.

An older gentleman whom I have known for many years spoke to me recently of his childhood and his very special dog, Casey. Casey was a Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix breed dog, commonly referred to as a “Shepweiler” or “Rottie Shepherd” (I didn’t know this was a popular mix until I looked it up). As such, Casey would have been a large, intelligent, working dog with strong protective instincts. He probably would have been quite impressive looking, even intimidating. My friend did not share a picture of Casey, but did tell me his story.

When my friend was a very young child, his mother left him outside for a while one day. (Before passing judgment, please remember that these were different times and my friend is of a different generation; his mother’s actions were neither unusual nor blameworthy, in fact it was considered a good thing to “get out of the house and get some fresh air.”) It must have been about this time of year, because the snow began to fall, apparently quickly and quite heavily.

When my friend’s mother came out to find him, he was nowhere to be seen. Understandably panicked, she went searching for him, ultimately reaching out to a neighbor for help. The neighbor asked “Where is the dog?” and suggested she call out to Casey. She did, and Casey responded but did not come to her. She followed Casey’s bark and found boy and dog together at the far end of the property. The little boy was curled up on the ground, asleep in the snow, with Casey curled around him, keeping him warm and protected. It must have been a beautiful, heartwarming sight.

My friend shared some other examples of Casey’s nature and gentle protectiveness. I was deeply moved to see the man’s continued love and affection for that dog, so many decades later.

This man, grown up, joined the Marines and became a carrier pilot and went on to have a long and distinguished career in commercial aviation. His love of sea and air, and the military, is evidenced throughout his home in pictures and memorabilia. He raised a wonderful, extended family that includes some of the nicest people I know. When the time came to leave the skies to others, he returned to his watery passion and sailed a succession of large sailboats along the East Coast and the Caribbean, living aboard with his family for long periods in distant ports. This pilot of the air became a pilot on the sea, remembering the past but always looking forward.

And the name of his first large sailboat? Casey.

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